Daydreaming, not cell phone use, causes the majority of “distracted driving” accidents that result in a fatality. That’s among the findings of data analyzed by Erie Insurance and released this week. Of the more than 172,000 people killed in car crashes over the past five years, one in 10 were in crashes where at least one of the drivers was distracted. Erie Insurance consulted with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in its analysis and released the data to coincide with April being Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
The analysis found being “generally distracted” or “lost in thought” was the number-one distraction involved in fatal crashes. The analysis of police data from 2012-2016 showed the majority of drivers who were distracted were “generally distracted” (inattentive, careless, or distracted – details unknown) or “lost in thought,” all of which are interpreted as daydreaming. In fact, police report that 61 percent of distracted drivers were daydreaming at the time of a fatal crash, compared with 14 percent of drivers who were distracted by cell phone use.
Paul Atchley, Ph.D., an internationally recognized cognitive behavioral researcher, provides these tips to prevent distracted driving:
- Keep your mind alert with “passive” forms of engagement, like listening to a radio show or a podcast. Your mind will automatically tune it out when it needs to. If something out of the ordinary suddenly happens in your environment, your brain won’t even hear what’s on the radio anymore. It will be fully focused on the task at hand.
- Don’t replace boredom with a distraction. For example, never send or read a text to alleviate boredom. Instead, play verbal road games that help you focus, like “I Spy.” Make it even more effective by saying “I Spy a Distracted Driver” which will help your mind focus even more on the road and defensive driving.
- Keep your hazard perception skills sharp. This means knowing where to look on the road ahead and watching for situations that may require you to take an action, such as changing speed or direction. Examples include a car entering an intersection or a pedestrian crossing the road.
Below are the top 5 distractions involved in fatal car crashes:
- Generally distracted or “lost in thought” (daydreaming), 61% of distracted drivers
- Cell phone use (talking, listening, dialing, texting), 14% of distracted drivers
- Outside person, object or event, such as rubbernecking, 6% of distracted drivers
- Other occupants, including kids (talking with or looking at other people in car), 5% of distracted drivers
- Using or reaching for device brought into vehicle, such as navigational device, headphones, 2% of distracted drivers